Published November 21, 2008
On August 17, the year-old New York City rock band Violens gathered at a ground-floor loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to make a video for “Spectator & Pupil”-a lush, dreamy song with careening atmospherics, New Wave harmonies, and a hard, galloping beat. Violens are the latest brainchild of Miami-bred Jorge Elbrecht, a 30-year-old artist, singer, and guitarist who is also a member of the popular art and music collective Lansing-Dreiden. L-D, for short, are known for making New Romantic music and minimalist, black-and-white geometric drawings, sculptures, and video pieces. Elbrecht swears, though, that unlike that collective, Violens are just a good, honest rock band. “It’s a little more autobiographical and personal,” Elbrecht says of Violens’ icy, yet more emotionally bare music. Their sound mixes Zombies-esque ’60s rock with the feel of stately ’80s U.K. groups like Prefab Sprout and the Durutti Column. It’s no surprise that they’ve toured with Brooklyn’s harmonic Grizzly Bear as well as with the psychedelically danceable MGMT. But there’s also a darkness to Violens’ tracks; Elbrecht lists Norwegian black metal as inspiration. “It’s full-on serious,” he confirms. “I love black metal as much as I love Sonic Youth and the ’60s pop stuff.”
Elbrecht may think of Violens as an opportunity to take a break from visuals and stick with music, but already the group created the soundtrack for New York City menswear-designer Patrik Ervell’s Spring-Summer 2009 show. Not only that, but (along with synths player Iddo Arad, bassist Ben Brantley, and drummer Kris King) Elbrecht recruited filmmaker Alia Raza to direct the “Spectator & Pupil” video. Raza has some experience working in the indie-rock world-she previously shot videos for two L.A. folk bands (Winter Flowers and the Chapin Sisters) and recently wrapped up the short film White Light, which she adapted from a Miranda July short story and which stars Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark. Raza is currently at work on an ongoing video series about psychotic anxiety that features Chloë Sevigny, Devendra Banhart, and Jena Malone, amongst others.
‘Spectator & Pupil’ is a playful boy-meets-girl song at its core: The vignette is about a guy who thinks a girl is attractive, until he talks to her (sample lyric: ‘I’ve been waiting for this day/Don’t kill it with what you say’).Jorge Elbrecht
Elbrecht met Raza two summers ago in L.A. when Lansing-Dreiden were playing a show at the Troubadour and crashed at her place for a couple of days. She only met the rest of Violens on the morning of the shoot. To determine the basic look of the video, Raza started by simply listening to the song. “It made me think of stark, black-and-white, still life-like images,” she explains. “I wanted white brick walls and an early-Mapplethorpe look to the set. The space we picked had a beautiful white tin wall, and I realized it would be nice to do something with a slightly feminine look since the band is all boys.”
“Spectator & Pupil” is a playful boy-meets-girl song at its core: The vignette is about a guy who thinks a girl is attractive, until he talks to her (sample lyric: “I’ve been waiting for this day/Don’t kill it with what you say”). The thing is, he’s so turned on by her physically, that he continues talking anyhow. Elbrecht is quick to note it’s not a love song. “The word love is stated in the lyrics,” he says. “But it’s meant to be sort of sarcastic. I’m not sure love is actually involved here-more like infatuation.”
Ultimately, the video blends Raza’s idea of still life (“We used white lilies because they were in season, and the blossoms are big and look good on camera”) with a live band performance and a dramatized boy-girl flirtation. The model Teuta Memedi, a friend of Elbrecht’s, plays the beauty. Since Elbrecht admits Violens’ music is somewhat autobiographical, it seems fair to ask how much the song resonates with his own life. “I may have been guilty before of listening too long to someone talk,” Elbrecht says. “Beautiful women are everywhere in New York. But these days I have a hard time continuing a conversation with someone I’m attracted to if I don’t feel that it’s nutritious.”